"Blackberry Winter" and Other Words Related to Spring
Spring is in the air, along with hoards of bumblebees and pollen that usually accompany this short-lived season. Though the vocabulary used to describe spring may seem limited to “Easter bunny” and “blooming,” the underrated season has a hidden stockpile of fun words that are worth sharing. (Especially on Twitter and Facebook, with all of your friends, multiple times, on many different accounts.) Some of them originate in other countries. Some of them are unusual. Some of them, I can’t pronounce. Whatever the case, check out these spring-related words to get you in the seasonal spirit!
Blackberry winter (n.): a brief period of cold weather in spring
Popular among farmers in the southern United States, blackberry winter refers to a cold spell in the middle of warm, spring weather, like a heatwave but with less sweat and more unexpected snow flurries. Other names for the phenomena include Dogwood Winter, Locust Winter, and Whippoorwill Winter, though I prefer the original name if only because it sounds more like a delicious fruity beverage than any of the alternatives. The term supposedly came about when farmers noticed the positive correlation between this burst of cold weather and the growth of their blackberry canes. Other farmers used the blooming of the dogwood trees, which only fully blossomed after this bout of coldness, to determine when it was safe to plant their goods. I can only speculate where the other names come from, especially the last one which seems vaguely unsettling. (Whip-poor-Will? I hope Will is okay.)
Pollywog (n.): a tadpole
Is this related to spring? I’d say yes because spring typically marks the emergence of tadpoles across the country, but my sheer appreciation for the word pollywog may make me a bit biased. Pollywog, or sometimes porwigle, is said to have come from the Dutch word “pol” meaning “summit” or “crown” (which eventually morphed into “head”) mixed with the word “wiggle.” Meaning, pollywog started out as another way of saying “wiggling head.” I’d say it’s a pretty accurate description.
Forget-Me-Not (n.): a type of delicate flower
Roses get too much credit, in my opinion, especially when there are hundreds of other flower types out there just waiting to be tied into a bouquet, dumped into a vase, and left to die. Forget-Me-Nots are one such example, and they happen to be very popular during the spring season. The name alone, which outranks “roses” in creativity any day, earns Forget-Me-Not some added attention, especially when you learn the history behind it. According to some sources, Forget-Me-Nots got their title from a German folk tale. In the story, a German knight and his bride stopped to pick some flowers as they were walking along a riverbank. As the man leaned over to pick one of the little flowers, he fell into the river and began to sink. As his armor dragged him down, he managed to scream out his final words: forget me not! And so, Forget-Me-Nots were named to commemorate a clumsy knight.
Aware (n.): the bittersweet feeling that comes after a short-lived moment of beauty
Originating in Japan, “aware” refers to “the bittersweetness of a brief and fading moment of transcendent beauty.” It has been used to describe spring’s ephemeral nature, as well as the few seconds of disappointment you feel after walking away from a fun-house mirror that made you look tall and slender.
Ostara (n.): a holiday celebrating the coming of spring
Ostara is a Pagan holiday dedicated to the coming of the spring equinox. The name comes from the word Eostre, the Germanic goddess of spring. The similarity between Eostre and Easter is not coincidental. In fact, Eostre has often been associated with rabbits and eggs, both symbols of fertility. As a result, many people celebrate Ostara by putting out bouquets of flowers next to a basket of eggs and handfuls of rabbit ornaments. (A weird setup, in my mind. I mean, imagine how disappointed would be if Santa came to get his offerings on Christmas and found rabbit pictures instead of milk and cookies?)
Paaskekrimmen (n.): a type of book, often related to crime, released around Easter
As far as Easter celebrations go, Norway’s takes the cake. Every spring around Easter, Norwegian publishers release a string of new crime novels. These “Easter Thrillers” are also called Paaskekrimmen, a name which I will not even attempt to pronounce. I don’t know how this tradition started, nor does anyone else, but any holiday that promotes the distribution of books is one that I can get behind.
Bush warbler (n.): Japanese bird appearing at the start of spring
Remote to Japan, the Bush Warbler is a species of bird that emerges at the beginning of spring. I’m including it for two reasons: 1) Because it signals the start of spring in Japan, so it’s relevant and 2) Because the name reminds me of Glee’s “Warblers” if they were Australian.
Vernal (adj.): relating to spring
The mother of all spring words, vernal comes from the Latin term “vernus” meaning “pertaining to spring.” As one writer notes, this means you can “vernalize” something, or make it more spring like. (Because the universe was in need of a word for such a specific adjective.)
Inspired by Katy Steinmetz’s Time piece. Featured image via Shutterstock.